Samsung’s new Gear VR looks similar, but packs a few noteworthy improvements

Immerse yourself with Samsung's new Gear VR, now available at $100

Samsung Gear VR 2
Jeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends
Samsung has a new Gear VR. After months of murmur and speculation, the company finally took the wraps off the new headset, which is now available alongside the fresh-off-the-presses Galaxy Note 7. It doesn’t pack much in the way of hardware surprises, but enough has changed within the new Gear VR that it’s difficult to mistake for last year’s model.

The dimensions are perhaps the most evident difference between old and new. This year’s Gear VR is a hair wider (207.8mm versus 201.9mm), longer (122.5mm versus 92.6mm), and taller (98.6mm versus 92.6mm) than its predecessor, but almost imperceptibly so — the extra space seems precision engineered to accommodate the Note 7’s relatively large footprint. It’s also a tad heavier than the old Gear VR at 312g (versus 310g), but you wouldn’t know it off hand — it feels remarkably similar, if not practically identical, to the old Gear VR. If Samsung was striving for continuity between the headsets here, it absolutely nailed it.

The new Gear VR’s other changes are decidedly more significant. For one, it packs new connectivity glaringly absent from last year’s headset: USB Type-C. Gone is the old Micro USB port, replaced with the same USB Type-C standard found on the Note 7. It’s capable of handling “power and data transfer,” Samsung somewhat cryptically explained, but refused to elaborate. It’s not too difficult to imagine accessories down the line designed to take advantage, like an external battery or augmented controller.

The new Gear VR hasn’t completely ditched Micro USB, though. A legacy connector provides a means of backwards compatibility, so the headset is compatible with the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, and S6 Edge Plus, in addition to the Note 7. On all of those devices, the field of view — i.e., the extent of the virtual reality video, game, or app visible at any given moment — has been improved from the old Gear VR’s 96 degrees to an ever-so-slightly wider 101 degrees. The padding is thicker and softer. And the headset’s interior sports a darker a much darker interior color scheme than last year’s model, a change which Samsung said was necessitated by the old Gear VR’s reflectivity.

There’s a new, dedicated button that surfaces the Gear VR menu from within any app or game. Beyond those relatively minor improvements, though, the Gear VR hasn’t changed all that dramatically. The focus adjustment ring remains in its original position, as do a slightly flatter directional pad and volume rocker. And the new Gear VR sports the same sensors as its outmoded namesake: an accelerometer and gyroscope for measuring orientation, and a proximity sensor for switching on and off a connected smartphone’s display.

The headset is now available for purchase at the same $100 price tag as its predecessor. You can also pick up the Galaxy Note 7, and a slew of other Samsung devices like the Gear 360. The Gear VR 2016 is available at Best Buy, Amazon.com, Car Toys, Sam’s Club, Target, and select Walmart stores.

Original article published on 08-02-2016 by Kyle Wiggers. Updated on 08-19-2016 by Julian Chokkattu: Added news that the Gear VR 2016 is now available. 

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